How Did ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Change Hollywood for the Better?

Grey’s Anatomy might have started out on a stale note, with a second season not guaranteed, but fifteen seasons later it earned the prestigious title of longest-running primetime medical drama in television history. But that isn’t the only way the show has generated buzz.

Most notably, Grey’s Anatomy changed Hollywood for the better. But just how did it do that? 

How did ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ change Hollywood for the better?

Grey’s Anatomy will forever go down in history as breaking barriers for women and minorities. The show didn’t stop at a small step for these groups, either, but took momentous leaps and bounds that people will undoubtedly be talking about for years to come.

Below we take a look at the exact ways these barriers were broken down, and how the world reacted to it.

An enormous step for women in Hollywood

The executive producing director for Grey’s Anatomy was Shonda Rhimes, who (at the time) was relatively unknown and new to the scene. As a woman director, Rhimes had faced obstacles on her way up that she noticed many of her male counterparts did not. The show proved to be a huge turning point in her career, as she has gone on to accumulate more than 20 production credits. This includes television series like  Seattle Grace, Off the Map, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and For the People.

But what makes her situation unique is that Rhimes chose to help other women up on her own way to the top. When she gained the executive production position on Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes challenged herself to ensure that half of all the directors were women – in an industry that is very male dominated. She is quoted as saying that “nobody told me to do that,” but that the mandate was something she felt necessary. 

This wasn’t the only big step for women that Grey’s Anatomy is responsible for, either. The star’s leading lady, Ellen Pompeo, now holds the title of the highest paid actress on primetime television – a title that was not easily come by. Pompeo has been quite public with her ongoing battle for pay equal to (or even better than, considering she is the “Grey” of Grey’s Anatomy) her male counterparts. 

Debbie Allen, both a producer and starring character, remembers how great it was to work on a set where women were on an equal footing.”It is a friendly place for women’s empowerment because finally, you have all of these women who are sitting in places of power who are in charge. So we are reaching out to one another. We’re not leaving people behind. We are bringing in more.”

A big change for minority actors

Grey's Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy | Ron Tom/ABC via Getty Images

The world of Hollywood often falls into placing actors of minority ethnicity into cliche roles – like the “token black friend” or “smart Asian girl.” As far as the world has come in terms of equality, the continual renewal of these pigeonholed stereotypes shows that there is still far to go.

Grey’s Anatomy was entirely different from the start, however. It received massive amounts of buzz for it’s diverse characters from the moment it debuted back in 2005. Kelly McCreary, who portrays Doctor Maggie Pierce on the show, remembers just how blown away she was. “I thought, like, ‘Wait, so, the Asian lady and the black dude and the other black dude … they’re all like kind of equals in this world’.”

James Pickens, Jr., who plays Doctor Richard Webber, also remembers being blown away. “When they had me come in to read for the role of chief of surgery, I hadn’t seen an African American in that kind of role before… Shonda always wanted to make sure that the show impacted the landscape in a way that we hadn’t seen before on TV. I like to think that Grey’s had a big part in how the industry casts shows.”